Monday, August 3, 2009

Natural Isn't Always Best

It's wrong to believe that nature is always best
At last, the myth about organic food being better for us has been exploded. Maybe now we can get down to the serious business of feeding our growing population
Robin McKie
The Observer, Sunday 2 August 2009

For years, it was the nation's favourite growth industry. Throughout the Nineties and for much of this decade, organic leeks, carrots, onions and other fruit and vegetables enjoyed a startling upsurge in popularity. More and more supermarket shelf space was devoted to their sale as the middle class rushed for food that was natural and free of pesticides while local entrepreneurs, their car boots bulging with knobbly turnips and strange-looking potatoes, delivered an ever-increasing number of organic veggie boxes to households round the country.

According to one industry estimate, the organic food market was worth more than £2bn in Britain last year and were it not for the recession might have continued to swell for years to come. Today, organically managed farms and estates account for 4% of all UK agricultural land. Despite our financial problems, and the expense of producing low-yield organic foods, it seems the nation still expects its food to be wholesome.

But last week, the movement's image suffered a blow when the Food Standards Agency published a report that examined the different nutrient levels found in crops and livestock from both organic and non-organic farming. It also looked at the health benefits of eating organic food - and decided that there were none.

"Looking at all of the studies published in the last 50 years, we have concluded that there's no good evidence that consumption of organic food is beneficial to health based on the nutrient content," said Dr Alan Dangour, who led the review by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Thus an analysis that raises concerns about how food is grown in this country is destined to be enlightening. After all, if organic food is no more beneficial in terms of nutrition than other, standard foodstuffs, why should we pay excessive prices to eat the stuff? Why devote more land to its production?

"People think that the more natural something is, the better it is for them. That is simply not the case. In fact, it is the opposite that is the true: the closer a plant is to its natural state, the more likely it is that it will poison you. Naturally, plants do not want to be eaten, so we have spent 10,000 years developing agriculture and breeding out harmful traits from crops. 'Natural agriculture' is a contradiction in terms." Read More

There is a large group of people that really believe anything natural is good for you. The truth of the matter is that most everything else in nature is trying to kill you for their benefit. Many plants are poisonous to discourage being eaten. Many more used to be before thousands of years of genetically modifying them changed that. All wildlife have some sort of unique ability to either defend themselves or attack their prey. Continuing to shape and form nature into a more usable product will be necessary if we want to provide for a growing population.

5 comments:

theYakRanch said...

We love the work you are doing to promote agriculture in general. It seems that this study focuses on nutrient content which would seem to me be a function of soil fertility. The excerpt in your blog does not address any of the issues around pesticides and synthetic fertilizers or any long term effects of decreased soil fertility. I am not on the wacko side of organic but I don't think the info in this study settles anything. What am I missing? I do think we have a massive obligation to increase our ability to feed the world.
Keep up the great work!

Denise Rich said...

This is great information, so the nutrition is the same, the cost sure isn't. I have to say, I buy organic potatoes because the taste is much richer, I don't know why.

Troy Hadrick said...

YakRanch,

You are right. This study only focused on the claims that organic food was more nutritious than conventionally raised food. No system is perfect so you will see advantages and drawbacks to any type of production system. But at the end of the day, we have a simple yet vital responsiblity in agriculture, and that is to produce enough food for everyone to eat.

Troy Hadrick said...

Hi Denise,

Thanks for the comment. If you think organic potatoes taste better and you are willing to pay more for that, then by all means continue doing so. I just want to makesure that consumers are making these decisions based on accurate information about the products.

dinkleberries said...

Well I'd like to know a lot more about this study, like who financed it and what is their likely agenda and what was their source of organic? Even what do they consider organic? . . . before I buy into their decisions. Things can be labeled organic without being grown in optimal conditions. If the soil is not remineralized, the plants will still be subject to bug attacks which in my understanding is simply a symptom of an unhealthy plant which is also a symptom of unhealthy soil. Take Greg Judy for instance:
http://www.greenpasturesfarm.net/blog.php?entryID=1590&cat=1
Healthy soil is critical to his profitable operation and he uses natural resources to keep it that way.

I think Natural is Best when it's done optimally!!